Good Morning Readers. Today I am featuring the Priorhouse Interview with blogger, artist, photgrapher, and author VJ Knutson. Thanks to everyone who joined us for the January interview with author Annika Perry (here).
Now let’s get to know VJ Knutson. If you do not feel like reading all of the post – feel free to skim through the headings and maybe listen to the read aloud for the poem “Maybe”
***Also, if you would rather leave feedback on VJ’s site, HERE is the link to her post for this interview.***
PRIORHOUSE: VJ, Can you tell us a little bit about your background, blogging experience, writing, etc.?
VJ: I started writing poetry, mostly haiku, at the age of nine, inspired by a teacher. By the time I was twelve, I was running a poetry column in our local newspaper. Also at age twelve, due to my advanced reading and writing skills, a teacher challenged me to write a book, which I did. The novel received acclaim from the instructor but became the source of much bullying from peers. I burned it in the end. Most of my career focused on writing manuals, or lesson plans, although I always kept a column or two going when possible. Journal writing probably accounts for most of my writing experience. I started a blog, in 2011, when facing Breast Cancer, deciding that this might be something to share with others. Surgery was successful, but I continued to write. In 2014, when I was struck down by Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), it became too difficult to form whole sentences, so I turned once again to poetry.
PRIORHOUSE: I have read your bio a few times and the bullying part always gives me a knot in my stomach. And I am sure that your readers are glad you turned to poetry, especially as you write so adeptly about persevering with the chronic illness of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME).
VJ: I was taking time to recover and build strength. ME is a relapsing/remitting disorder, which means that the symptoms can come and go. The characteristic of ME is exhaustion after exertion. Every time I experience a good spell, and up my activity, I pay for it afterwards. There has been progress with the disease, for which I am eternally grateful, but it is slow and sometimes hard to miss. When I’m in a relapse, it takes all my energy just to rise and get dressed in a day. The exhaustion is systemic, so even thinking becomes akin to wading through muck.
PRIORHOUSE: Well thank you for sharing.
What is one of your favorite poems that you have written?
VJ: A favourite poem is Dear Charlotte Perkins Gilman, which is based on a favourite piece of literature:The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
Priorhouse: After you shared that with me, I downloaded The Yellow Wallpaper and enjoyed it. If anybody wants to read The Yellow Wallpaper, VJ gave us the link for the pdf:
VJ: Yes, I added that link on my blog post and if people read The Yellow Wallpaper they might notice that my poem, Dear Charlotte Perkins Gilman, mimics Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s style. After a particularly sleepless night, I realized that much of what I was experiencing – being bed ridden, and advised to keep activities to a minimum, was not unlike Gilman’s experience.
Here is a link to VJ performing the poem:
PRIORHOUSE: The reading aloud really gives us a feel for the flow of the poem. It is nice to see poets in action. Also, you are so open about how you push on to overcome your setbacks. I know it inspires many.
If readers didn’t click to visit VJ’s post. the full poem can be found here and below is a snippet:
VJ: My mother loves my poem, Welcoming New Life, which I wrote while my daughter was in labour with granddaughter #3.
Here is a stanza from VJ’s Welcoming New Life poem.
“You are promise, Darling Girl.
You are past, present, future;
revival of hope; an angel.
Hearts are ready to receive you,
and the meaning you bring to life.”
PRIORHOUSE: It is nice to have some of your poetry in this interview post. The prose is flowing so let me now share one of your recent poems:
Robin is absent
while I evade spills
for the harbinger’s return.
December 2021 – post is here
PRIORHOUSE: I liked Robin’s Absence because of the way you allowed us to feel the pause or stall of winter – also noting how some have to watch for spills. Yet in this short poem you also remind us there is beauty in winter – joy – with “snow-filled adventures” and even the endearment in window watching. Then the choice of the word “harbinger” brings us back to the robin and the hope they bring of spring and new seasons. Oh, and in a way – this poem could relate to missing a loved one who is away, or a friend (like that of Robin) and how we wait for their return – or a sign of it.
VJ: Thank you, Yvette, and here is the photo that went with that poem:
PRIORHOUSE: I remember when I first encountered your writing, I paused. Read the selection again, enjoyed the original photo (or photos), then left a comment and went on my way. However, one day I realized how much I REALLY enjoyed your work – and I told you so. I felt your style – and I know that your husband has connected with one of your poems. Can you tell us your husband’s favorite VJ poem?
VJ: My husband’s favourite poem is, The Art of Survival. It was first published in November 2016 for dVerse pub Open Link Night here.
PRIORHOUSE: Readers can hear you read it aloud, here, and below is a snippet of the poem – but I hope readers will go and listen to your reading. It is powerful – and reminds us that not everyone had a perfect father.
PRIORHOUSE: Can you tell us about your publications and any Works in Progress?
VJ: My work has been included in many anthologies, both poems and short stories. Currently, I am involved in a collaboration with a photographer whose craft will be showcased in galleries and publication. I am one of the contributing poets. In the works is a memoir, about my family growing up, and a book of poems about living with chronic illness.
PRIORHOUSE: Can you tell us how you create a poem?
VJ: Much of my poetry is inspired by dreams. I have been studying and recording my nightly adventures since 1986, and they are full of rich imagery and wonderful themes on the human condition. I like to take the images, or words, and make associations, noting my emotional responses, and linking them back to current life issues. Quite a therapeutic process.
PRIORHOUSE: That does sound like a therapeutic process. I know your photography can be therapeutic as well. How long have you been using your lens?
VJ: I am a novice photographer. When I first began my blog, I suggested to my husband that it would be wonderful if I could match my images to his photographs, to make it more personal.
I balked at the suggestion that I take my own photos.
“Not my thing,” I said. Then in 2017, my husband gave me a small, lightweight digital camera and insisted.
I was immediately entranced. I think he regrets the act because I am now obsessed with taking pictures. The fun for me is really in the editing processing – playing with the image to create art. “Picturating” my husband calls it.
PRIORHOUSE: “Pictuarating” is a fun custom word. Let’s look at one of your “picturated” creations – the one that you paired with your poem, Maybe.
AUTHOR READING POEM
Priorhouse: I might have called that poem, “Winged, and Ready to Soar” – but “Maybe” does fit well. And VJ, the bird analogies are so fun. Can you tell us about your love for birds?
VJ: Birds – I’m going to tell you a bit of story here. When I was a child, I was often locked out of the house for hours. I found solace in nearby woods, where a presence I called Mother looked out for me. If I was anxious, I would ask Mother to send me a sign that everything was going to be okay. A flock of sparrows would land at my feet and I would be immediately comforted.
Birds have always signified hope and promise to me.
The three years I was bedridden with ME, my bed was positioned with a window at my feet and one at my side, and my husband installed birdfeeders so that I always had something to cheer me. The first thing I did when I was able to get out of bed was join a birding club. I couldn’t participate much but it was wonderful to mingle with kindred souls.
Best advice I can give about birding – set yourself in a quiet place and wait. Birds are creatures of habit, and after a while, you can learn their ways.
FUN FACTS ABOUT VJ
- I have a warped sense of humour, and when I crack myself up, my uncontrollable laughter can be contagious.
- I always wanted to be a comedienne, and when I was forty, I auditioned for an improv company that did Murder Mysteries. I was hired and in my six years there, played over twenty different characters, laughing all the way.
- Something I’m really good at that few people know about. Had to ask my family about this. My husband says I’m good at art (but I’m just learning), and my children say I’m great with the grandchildren. My grandchildren would say I’m good at making cornbread and apple crumble.
FAMILY & WORK
VJ: I mentioned earlier that I like to journal. In fact, I’ve been keeping journals since I was eight, and they have travelled with me every time I move, which is often. My children starting labelling the boxes of journals: “Mom’s crap.” Pretty much tells you what they think of my writing. Although, in one move, my adult son accidentally ended up with a box. He shyly told me about it much later, confessing he’d read my journals, and did I please have more.
PRIORHOUSE: VJ, I have heard so many successful authors share that their family members do no read their work. For example, Sandra Cisneros, author of House on Mango Street shared that her family never reads her work.
VJ: I actually asked a therapist once, why my family was not interested in my writing? She explained that the emotions might be too much for them. I can live with that. My mother reads my writing, and her book club even studied my poetry, but it was all selectively doled out.
PRIORHOUSE: That is great that your mother’s book club reads your writing. Your therapist could have a good point there, especially if you write about personal topics. However, I also think that sometimes family and close friends do “not” read an author’s work because they relate more to the author with other roles. The author side might seem extraneous as the writer wears different hats. They know you as “mom” or “sister” and assume they know you so well (in many ways they do but maybe not the author/ artist development.
In addition, the saying about how a “prophet is least regarded in their hometown” reminds me that people sometimes see “the writer in the family” with very specific filters. Limited filters. Sometimes those very familiar with the author might not have interest in (or see the talent with) the work being done.
- I love the writings of Wally Lamb, the Bronte sisters, and so many more. P.K. Page, a Canadian poet, really inspired me to rethink poetry and write again.
- Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery is a childhood favourite that I’ve read over and over.
- A favourite novel would have to be The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.
- I am not really a movie watcher, so no favourites there. I like documentaries, and would have to say My Octopus Teacher really touched me.
- Live theatre is a love of mine, especially Shakespearean. Lucky for us, we live close to the Canadian Stratford.
- Taming of the Shrew is a favourite.
- How could I pick favourites in the blogging world. There are so many wonderful writers, photographers, and essayists that I follow, and I’m certain many more I have not yet discovered.
- Food and I are not on good terms right now, but I do love a good piece of chocolate.
- My favourite place to go is the river that runs through our small town. There are many spots to sit and watch the birds and contemplate serenity.
PRIORHOUSE: Thanks for that list – and here is a photo of the river VJ mentioned.
VJ: Thanks so much Yvette!
PRIORHOUSE: Truly my Pleasure, VJ. I enjoyed getting to know you more through this February 2022 interview and I am really glad to be connected in the blog world.
VJ: I am glad too, Yvette. The blogging community has meant everything to me through my personal struggles.
PRIORHOUSE: Let’s close with the poem “On Nature” (here), which was listed as one of your “Top 10 Readers’ Favorites.”
by VJ Knutson
How is that a tree can stir my soul, so?
Yet, set amongst the Douglas firs –
an orchestra of giants, the reassurance
of green towering and proud – the music
of my soul is nothing less than symphonic.
How is that the sky can speak to me?
No words to convey its vastness, yet
it breathes new life into empty spaces,
whispers promises, ignite a hope
synonymous only with its expanse.
How is it that a body of water -be it
serene, flowing, or turbulent, can tug
at the corners of my emotional well,
create a longing for the unknowable,
toss me from my bed of complacency?
And how does a single flower, growing
wild, crack this shell of indifference –
the determination to blossom despite
harshness of surroundings – instil such
inspiration, motivate me to rejoice?
Here are some links if anyone wants to connect with VJ:
- WordPress One Woman’s Quest II
- WordPress One Woman’s Quest
- VJ on RedBubble
- VJ On Society6
- Email: email@example.com
- Twitter @Vjknutson
- Instagram: @1womansquest
If you have any questions or comments, we would love your feedback.
Thanks for joining us with this author interview.
We hope everyone is having a great start to February.